In a recent TED Talk, Transgender Model Geena Rocero referred to her driver’s license with the corrected name and gender not as a license to drive – but as a license to live. I will never forget the day that I received my court order legally changing my name to Leslie and my gender to Female. I cried in the judges chamber and thanked the judge for changing my life. It’s THAT big a deal.
Geena Rocero discussing the importance of gender markers and coming out.
With that in mind, I’m continually surprised by the large number of people who aren’t even aware that your driver’s license identifies you with the gender binary – either “M” or “F”; perhaps it’s because those folks have never had to suffer the indignity of being challenged when trying to use a bathroom or changing room when buying clothes. They have never had to spend anywhere from several hundred to maybe even several thousand dollars to have their gender marker changed to how they identify.
Texas, where I’m from, isn’t exactly a friendly place for Transgender people. We face opposition at every turn. In fact this past legislative session, four bills were sent to committee that would have criminalized people’s usage of gendered bathrooms that differ to the gender markers on their iDs. If these were to have gone through, they would have created a slew of unintended consequences.
Richard Pena and Debbie Riddle authored those bills using fear as reasons why Transgender people should be unfairly punished. Thankfully, those bills failed. The truth is, that in the 200 or so municipalities or school districts where laws respecting the rights of Transgender people to use the restrooms with which they identify, there have been no significant increases in public safety issues. Frankly, it’s a non-issue. Nevertheless, it’s more critical now than ever that our I.D. match who we are and how we present.
Recently a renegade bureaucrat at the Texas DPS became a one-woman crusade against name and gender changes. Through the DPS, she began requiring paperwork to which she was not legally entitled. She asked for surgeons’ letters and requested a copy of name and gender petitions when sent fingerprint cards in order to do background checks on each person changing their names and gender markers – neither of which are required. Not only that but nothing that indicated a gender marker change was being processed.
The majority of name and gender marker changes in Dallas County are done through one local attorney; Katie Sprinkle, who also happens to be my partner whom I love dearly. When the DPS began meddling with the process of changing gender markers, Katie decided to intervene. She hit the books and pulled up statutes pertaining to background checks, name changes and what was required to be sent to DPS. The brief was 10 pages of compelling and unambiguous evidence that the employee at the DPS was over-stepping.
Katie presented this brief to Presiding Civil Judge Craig Smith and he agreed – even going so far as to call the DPS and speak with the renegade employee and her supervisors, telling them to knock it off. The other 12 civil court judges in Dallas County were all in agreement. This is huge. It affects more than just the petitions of those Transgender residents of Dallas County, because everywhere there are judges that will sign gender correction orders. It’s something universal which cannot be confined to Dallas County alone.
I’m so proud of Katie. She doesn’t go around tooting her own horn but she has been a tireless advocate for the Transgender community in North Texas. She founded a legal clinic at The Resource Center serving members of GEAR and has done pro-bono work or reduced fee services of all kinds for the Transgender community. She even makes her name and gender paperwork available to do-it-yourselfers at no charge.
She and I joined others from Resource Center a couple of months ago in speaking to members of the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Northern District of Texas and sharing the challenges of the Transgender community. Katie also works in cooperation with Equality Texas and Lambda Legal. She puts herself out there. She truly cares. So here’s a big giant thank you to Katie Sprinkle and the judges in Dallas County who realize just how important it is to have the simple dignity of identification that matches who we are.
It’s our license to live – it’s good to know there are people out there to help make sure it doesn’t expire.
Leslie McMurray is the writer of: In Transition.
‘A Quiet Victory’ was originally published on Leslie McMurray’s personal blog: In Transition.
It is also a part of Season V of PTL which is run in association with: All About Trans.
We encourage all of our readers to donate to this season’s organisation: Gendered Intelligence.
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